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THE YIKBAM/CDHTA ERA,                                            109
Transcripts and translations of many of these inscriptions have been since
made by different scholars and haye been published by General Cunningham In
Volume III. of his Archaeological Survey ; biit they are for the most part of a
very tentative character and leave much room for uncertainty, both as regards
reading and interpretation.* They are all brief votive records, giving only the
name of the obscure donor, accompanied by some stereotyped religious formula.
The dates, -which it would be specially interesting to ascertain, are indicated by
figures, the value of which has been definitely determined; but the era to which
they refer is still matter of dispute. Dr. Bajendra-lala Mitra has consistently
maintained from the first that it is the Saka era, beginning from 76 A. D.; and
if so, the series ranges between 120 and 206 A. D. But the era intended
might also be that of Vikramaditya, or of the Seleucidae, or of Buddha's
Nirvana, or of the particular monarch whose name is specified.
Before the discovery of these and similar inscriptions, the history of India,
from the invasion of Alexander the Great to that by Mahmiid of Ghazni, was
almost an absolute blank, in which however the name of Vikramaditya, the repu-
ted founder of the era still most in vogue among Hindus, enjoyed such universal
celebrity that it seemed impossible for any question to be raised regarding
Mm. This solitary stand-point has completely given way under the weight
of modern researches, and not only Vikramaditya's paramount sovereignty^
but even his existence, is now denied, and that by disputants who will scarcely
find a single other matter on which to agree. Mr. Fergusson writes : (s Ho
authentic traces exist of any king bearing the name or title of Vikramaditya
having lived in the first century before Christ ; nor "—though here Ms assertion
will be disputed—" has it been possible to point to any event as occurring B. C.
56, which was of sufficient importance to give rise to the institution of an era
for its commemoration." Similarly, Professor Bhau Daji, of Bombay,, declared
that he knew of no inscription^ dated in this Barnlat^ before the eleventh cen-
tury of the Christian era ; and, though this appears to be carrying incredulity
a little too far, General Cunningham, upon whose accuracy every reliance can
be placed, says that the earliest inscription of the Yikram&ditya era, that he
has seen, bears date 811, that is A* D. 754. Now, if the era was really
* It may be hoped that Dr. Hoemle of the Calcutta Madras* will at some time find leisure to
rerisc and translate the whole series of these early inscriptions. There is no ooe in India, or even
MMag Earopean scholars, who is equally qualified for the task by his knowledge of Sanskrit,
of literary Prakrit and of the modem vernacular, which last ia often of tlie greatest service In
ropptyins parallel examples of colloquial usage. His corrected readings of the inscriptions from
4ae Bfaaihi* stupa, aj pnblkhed in tlie India* Antiquttryt ajws a trims*a of scholarly ingenuity.